In 2009, I spent 30 days backpacking and whitewater canoeing the wilds of the Yukon Territory, Canada with the National Outdoor Leadership School. Each morning, our ragtag group gathered to tune ourselves to the upcoming melodies of the day. Our gatherings were far from perfunctory, ranging from quotes to silent reflections to word games to physical training. On June 25, we each shared a thought with the group. Too timid to share my anxiety about the uphill slog, I blurted out, “Six months ‘til Christmas!”
Though taxing, the trek led to yet another spectacular alpine vista that receded into the annals of my mind as I returned to my so-called normal life as a high-school senior. Somewhat surprisingly, I woke six months later on December 25 thinking about my time in the mountains. I pondered the past six months and projected to the next six. What would I be doing? Where would I be doing it? Who would I be doing it with? Why would I be doing it?
Since then, June 25 and December 25 have become my yearly beacons. At each point, I evaluate my current situation, look back on the previous six months, and speculate and plan for the coming six. Connecting with my past and future selves is a sweet pleasure.
Although we are now in the waning days of January, my contemplations from December 25, 2015 still resonate. My mind spins in a beautiful tornado each day of the year, but it shifts into overdrive during the days approaching my reflection. This Christmas, I was in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia with my family. Six months prior, to the day, I was in a San Diego hospital bed. On June 25, a skilled surgeon removed a tumor from my hip area. I was in the midst of the tumultuous year that often follows university graduation, and this unexpected invasion was my second surgery in less than five months. I remember groggily waking and flashing through my reflections from the past six months. I had no idea what would come in the impending six. My plan was to move to Bogotá, Colombia, but the dark dagger of cancer loomed.
On July 9, I learned my tumor was a benign deposit called a lipoma. Still shaking with uncertainty and the residual trauma of fear, I packed my bags to spend nearly a year abroad. This abrupt, though not unplanned, change facilitated the creation of a new type of foundation. Often, I feel I am in suspended animation as my life in the US spins by while I simultaneously create a life here. The balance often seems unreal, and I wonder how I will integrate it when I return.
When June 25, 2016 comes, I will be in the United States, hopefully working on rivers with youth, sharing my love for landscape, water, science, and fun. I have a general outline, and though I am certainly a meticulous planner, I am learning to be open to the warm winds of opportunity.
As I get older, my mind cycles beyond six-month intervals. One year? Two years? Five years? Fifty years? The same questions reverberate in my skull, the human basics: who, what, where, when, why, how? I still do not know the future, and never will, but I reject the fear that creeps in with uncertainty. I look forward to June 25, 2016 with excitement and look back on December 25, 2015 with gratitude.